I spent $316 on 30 books last night, from a list generously provided by a new friend, who is maybe also a mentor. Or maybe that should be reversed, a mentor who is maybe also a friend. That is over 1.5x what I now make in a week...lol. Go savings. Such a small amount for yardage on a salvaged bookshelf, an acre in the back 40 of my mind. All I know is if I piecemealed it, I would forget, or the wealth (of words, not coins) would get subsumed in daily rush. So I ordered, and they will trickle into my mailbox in the coming weeks from book sellers all over the country, smelling sometimes of must (or must), the marginalia of a previous owner’s hand sketched in the empty places beyond words. Or the turned down pages, the filing system of a reader’s enthusiasm and desire to remember what is important. This morning, I re-read almost all of Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, and maybe 10 pages aren’t dog-eared. Which in my universe, means re-read this book five more times, because something is speaking to me on every other page.
And maybe my schedule isn’t so much of a rush as an ebb, the flow of my days ordered by my hand. By what needs doing, in the office, for residents, for myself. I still have not figured how to sort my days into a sense of discipline. Yoga and the gym? When, exactly, is my writing time? How will I prioritize it? Can I wake daily at 6am, and begin? Probably not. But if I could, say, get wet-haired to the studio by 6:45am, steaming coffee in the thermos, and write until 10am, I’d start each day with over 3 hrs. of words. A structured scaffold to undergird my day.
For now, I wake and think too many thoughts in bed, look at the mountains, listen to the robins or rain. Play with the sheets, sit up with four pillows behind my back. Sometimes half an hour, or more. Watch the early risers walk to breakfast. Then coffee, then maybe reading in front or stupidly checking my horoscope on the phone. Checking for emergencies or little messages. More coffee, a shower, dressing for vagaries of weather. I probably give up two hours of my day to this ritual of nothingness. But the slip stream of sheet time is maybe what provides some sense of order to my days, a balance in the ledger of my being. It makes me uncommonly happy. (And by half an hour, I sometimes mean an hour [or more] and when I say reading up front I often mean reading in bed and sometimes when I say at my desk writing, I mean laptop balanced on my cotton covered knees.) It is an extravagance of unordered time and place, silence and space. It is mine for the lolling, the rolling and stalling.
Tonight I will be introducing the second resident reading, eight fierce and fabulous writers who have graced us with their presence. I have to check with everyone to get their names phonetically spelled on my sheet of paper, along with the order of readers. Having a last name people say four different ways (let alone never spell with a lowercase f), I try to be sensitive to emphasis and vowel sound, not adding extra syllables. I will screw something up, somewhere, burble or elide… nature of the job. I know people who could MC without notes, but that is not my wheelhouse. The previous Writing Coordinator took a picture of the list and then worked from it. Um, no. Stress and nerves standing in front of people makes my brain a blank sheet of paper. From years of presenting, I have come to work within my need for ink on a page, the calmness of letters ordering my thoughts so I can smile and breathe. If I looked down and saw this, I'd panic.
Finally, my thesis. I cracked the beast back open and am half-way through double-checking it, so it can be ordered (leather-bound) for the school. Maybe tonight, definitely tomorrow. Of course there’s an app for this. Or a company, whose sole purpose is to bind all these graduate and Ph.D. products into items of display for each school’s library, and one for our own. It will be my first book of poetry in a public space, even though it is not a book but an ordered group of poems that I took as far as I could in this place and time. Not really a first book, yet also, totally, so there is the pressure of making it true. A friend told me her thesis advisor called it the collection of your heart on the page. I’ve already made changes, which I think is allowed, from the thesis in my committees’ hands. Or I am just doing it anyway, because I can’t stand not to do it. It is like turning down those book pages, a compulsion to mark, group, organize, maybe even enjoin or entreat. So I can feel calm when I push that final button, are you sure you want this ordered? Such a terrifying thing, to admit to being finished, for now.
1. give an authoritative direction or instruction to do something.